Callie Saitowitz’s five decades in the fashion retail business have been a whirlwind.
It seems only yesterday, Saitowitz says, she was a young girl growing up in South Africa, the daughter of a South African woman and a man from Lithuania.
Sitting in her Houston home, with her favorite white roses on the kitchen table, Saitowitz, the owner of BB1 Classic boutique in Uptown Park, reflected on her journey, which began in South Africa, where her father owned a department store that sold everything from clothes to groceries to tractors.
“I was always in my dad’s business, but I never thought to have my own store,” she said. “I wanted to travel and decided to go into t he legal secretary work.”
That career move didn’t last. With her father’s help, Saitowitz acquired a fashion boutique, called Dominique, in her hometown. It was during the reign of British fashion model Twiggy, and London was the center of trends. Saitowitz flew to London and scoured the city to find unique things for the store. She later opened another location in Johannesburg, South Africa, where “everything was cutting edge.”
“When you are 21, you want to be immersed in the fashion. Johannesburg was the center of fashion in South Africa,” she said.
Saitowitz learned early that to survive in retail, she had to be ahead of the trends. She
struck gold when she discovered Votre Nom stirrup pants, a favorite of Parisian women.
She returned from Paris with a suitcase stuffed pull of the pants. They sold out within
“We were always trying to find a winner. I learned never to stay the same because trends constantly change.”
In 1973, her father died at age 65, just two years before she married Julian Saitowitz.
The couple has a son, Joshua, 31.
In 1991, they moved to Houston. Saitowitz took over the BB1 store in the Galleria and later moved the store to a location on Shepherd, then to River Oaks on West Gray. She opened a second location in Post Oak Center but closed after four years because of building maintenance issues. A third location, in the Town and Country area, was opened for a few years, too.
But in 2003, Saitowitz consoilidated into one massive two-story retail space in Uptown Park. Her younger sister Moira Morris, helps run the boutique.
“It’s been such a fun challenge to be in this industry, but it’s not about a store, it’s
about the people,” said Saitowitz, decked out in her favorite Elisa Cavaletti sneakers
and vintage Chanel eye frames from Vision Optique, of which she has two pair.
She’s known as the “quiet lady of fashion” with a style that’s chic and effortless.
“I love being comfortable.”
Home: River Oaks/Upper Kirby area
Style heroes: Daniela Dallavalle and Isabel de Pedro
Pairs of shoes: “More than 100 pairs, most of which I never wear.”
Favorite accessory: A scarf. “I have two limited-edition scarves, made exclusively for the Gaudi and Dali museums in Barcelona, gifted to me by the designer.”
Should toss but can’t: A long gold crochet Lurex dress from London in the late 1960s.
Recent purchase for your wardrobe: Elisa Cavaletti sneakers and Yoshi Yoshi pull-on, slim-legging pants.
Most regrettable purchase: Designer suits purchased at age 21 that I only wore once.
Favorite travel destination: Mauritius
Favorite family momento: Saitowitz had a gold band made for a watch her father
Must-have beauty products: Pure Hyaluronic Acid Serum from Houston Wellness Clinic.
First car: An Austin
Most hated household chore: Drying out my shower every morning
Favorite word: Love
Favorite food: Old-fashioned South African barbeque
Favorite cocktail/wine: Dry martini, straight up with olives
Hidden talent: Flower arranging
Best advice ever received: Stay credible
Backup career: “A long time ago, I wanted to charter luxury yachts.”
Theme song: “My Way” by Shirley Bassey
Trend you’ll never wear: Baby-doll style
-By Joy Sewing